Program Notes From Director of “The Shining

In advance of  Opera Parallèle’s presentation of “The Shining,” the company is sharing program notes from composer Paul Moravec. 

Stephen King’s novel The Shining is naturally operatic: it sings. The story dramatizes three of the most basic aspects of opera — love, death, and power. To me above all, it is about the power of love in the presence of evil and destructive forces. For all of the supernatural elements and high-voltage action, it’s a very human story about an ordinary family trying to stay together under extraordinary duress. It was a joy for me and Mark Campbell to imagine this timeless predicament in musically dramatic form, along with the novel’s evocation of terror and the supernatural. Opera Parallele’s world premiere of this new, intimate, up-close orchestration and staging is a thrill and honor of a lifetime.

From the start of our collaboration, Mark and I agreed to focus on the musical characterization of Jack Torrance as a genuinely conflicted, three-dimensional person. Much of the music in the opera, including the orchestral interludes, works to get us inside Jack’s mind and central nervous system so that we can feel the transformation of a basically decent guy trying to do the right thing as he is overwhelmed by madness and evil.  

Deeply resonant archetypes are the stuff of operatic treatment. Among the archetypes in Mr. King’s story guiding my composition of the score are those of Abraham-and-Isaac, Jekyll-and-Hyde, and even Siegfried/Götterdämmerung.  

I have composed for each character a distinctive group of Leitmotivs that continually evolve and combine over the course of the drama.  The two disparate aesthetics that Brian mentions in his program notes — the natural and the supernatural — are reflected in two distinct musical sound-worlds that periodically converge and diverge as the drama requires.  

In the final analysis (odd is this may seem) I want the members of audience to forget that they’re watching an opera. For all of its complexity and sophistication in the synthesis of drama and music, the power of opera as an art-form arises from its essentially primal, irrational nature and from “the primitive underworld of our souls,” in the words of Robertson Davies. “Opera speaks to the heart as no other art does, because it is essentially simple.”